This year I was fortunate enough to be given press credentials for the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival. I will be writing about what I watch here and at the Cultural Gutter in Notes and in a final round-up piece in August.
Writer / director Satoshi Miki’s second movie* at Fantasia this year, What To Do With The Dead Kaiju (Japan, 2022), addresses an issue rarely at the center of kaiju or any giant monster, animal, or insect movie, what to do about the giant carcass after the battle is over. Ten days after the defeat of a kaiju, an exclusion zone has been established in the Tokyo metropolitan region, residents are advised to stay home, and the monster’s corpse is beginning to decompose. The people in What To Do With The Dead Kaiju don’t have the good fortune of the bureaucrats in Shin Godzilla (2016), where Godzilla’s body just sort of petrified. Instead, this kaiju is bloating in strange, stinksome ways.
But there are issues beyond the logistics of removing an enormous and possibly biohazardous dead giant monster. The Japan Special Forces (JSF), a secret force formed to battle kaiju with science, combat, and the famous #2 Battle Cruiser, are standing down in the face of political concerns. The Prime Minister Nishiotachime (Toshiyuki Nishida) and his cabinet has gathered to discuss which minister is responsible for the body, when to declare the situation safe, the potential tourist appeal of the dead kaiju, and what to name the monster. Environment Minister (Eri Fuse) Renbutsu makes an early move to “get ahead in the post-kaiju era,” visiting the kaiju’s body with her assistant, kaiju expert and former member of the JSF, Yukino Amane (Tao Tsuchiya) to get an early environmental impact estimate and, of course, a press opportunity. Meanwhile, there is a love triangle. Yukino is married to Masahiko Amane (Gaku Hamada), a former JSF member and current advisor to the prime minister. But Yukino is in love with Lt. Arata Onibata (Ryosuke Yamada), a current member of the JSF. She wanted to marry Arata, but something happened 3 years ago. Arata disappeared and has been distant since his return. He won’t talk about where he went or what happened. While Arata was gone, Yukino married Masahiko Amane. Arata and the JSF want to do what’s best for the health and safety of the people of Tokyo (and the Earth), but the cabinet wants to profit off the monster, other countries want a piece of it, and the Defense Minister is intensely focused on his rivalry with the JSF and his desire to be the one that disposes of the kaiju remains.
What To Do With The Dead Kaiju is entertaining and likely even more fun the more familiar you are with kaiju, tokusatsu and anime movies and series and Japanese politics. You don’t need to get all the references to enjoy the movie, though. What To Do With The Dead Kaiju does have elements that I always enjoy in kaiju stories: giant footprints; heat maps of the kaiju’s body; the movie’s internal science, and the imaging of the kaiju’s cells. And I enjoyed the position and demeanor of the kaiju–especially it’s leg jutting into the air. What To Do With The Dead Kaiju is lit beautifully and beautifully shot. There was a moment involving Masahiko Amane near the end that reminded me of Christopher Doyle shooting Tony Leung in a Wong Kar-Wai film. And it was a pleasure to see Eri Fuse in such a prominent role as Environment Minister Renbutsu and a dreadlocked Joe Odagiri as the munitions expert, Blues.
*I write about his first, Convenience Story (Japan, 2022), here.
I received a review copy of What To Do With The Dead Kaiju. Carol Borden is an editor at and evil overlord of The Cultural Gutter, a website dedicated to thoughtful writing about disreputable art. She was a writer for and editor of the Toronto International Film Festival’s official Midnight Madness and Vanguard program blogs. She has written for Biff Bam Pop, Soldier of Cinema, Mezzanotte, Teleport City, Die Danger Die Die Kill, and Popshifter. She’s appeared on CBC radio, The Projection Booth podcast, The Feminine Critique podcast, and the Infernal Brains podcast. She’s written a bunch of short stories including Godzilla detective fiction, femme fatale mermaids, an adventurous translator/poet, and an x-ray tech having a bad day. You can find them here.